Best-in-class horsepower and torque; superb fuel efficiency; handsome, accommodating cabin; engaging handling.
Less maximum cargo capacity than some rivals.
With its devilish smirk and in-your-face Burnt Orange paint job, this 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ looks like a car intent on stirring things up. It's fitting, since General Motors hopes the all-new Sonic (which replaces the forgettable Aveo in Chevy's lineup) will rock 'em and sock 'em in a way that revises the pecking order within the subcompact segment.
Chevy has done this kind of thing before; its compact Cruze came out of nowhere to become a worldwide sales darling. What's clear is that the Sonic is armed for battle. Our test car's turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 kicks up class-leading horsepower and torque, and it does so while managing an EPA-estimated 40 mpg on the highway. Handling is relatively keen and responsive, and the car's comfortable cabin — with a stylish industrial motif and ample storage opportunities — is both easy to look at and easy to live with.
The ruling class in the subcompact segment most certainly includes the refined Hyundai Accent, the versatile Honda Fit and the tech-laden Ford Fiesta. Add the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic to that list; it hits the mark for shoppers who value strong fuel economy, brisk acceleration and an accommodating cabin.
Our Chevy Sonic test car is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 good for 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, and it's mated to a six-speed manual transmission (this mill is one of two available engines; an automatic transmission is also offered). The six-speed ably harnesses the engine's power, producing snappy acceleration that allows us to confidently tango with quick highway traffic.
Steering is one of the car's strong points. It's light when it needs to be, allowing you to easily maneuver at low speeds in the parking lot, but tightens up to create a natural, well-weighted feel when cruising at highway speed.
At the track, the Sonic hastened from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, marking it as one of the quickest in the segment. In braking tests, the hatchback stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet (about average for the segment), with almost no fade and consistent pedal feel.
Stellar fuel economy is a must-have for many subcompact shoppers, and the Sonic charges into this gunfight with pistols blazing. Our test car's turbo engine has an EPA rating of 29 city/40 highway mpg and 33 combined mpg, which places it as one of the segment's most frugal choices; it sips less gas than the manual-equipped Fit (27/33/29) and Mazda 2 (29/35/32), but is slightly less economical than the Accent (30/40/34). In our travels with the Sonic, we observed combined mileage of just under 30 mpg.
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic gets it right when it comes to ride quality, hitting a note that delivers both comfort and driver engagement; suspension tuning is taut enough to foster a rapport with the road, and it pulls this off while keeping travel free of undue harshness.
Front passengers settle into seats that are welcoming and supportive, even if the cushions are a bit on the flat side. The cabin is roomy throughout, with an emphasis on headroom. Though this is a subcompact, even taller drivers should feel at ease within its interior.
Not that long ago, economy cars were blighted by copious amounts of wind, road and tire noise, but thankfully, things are different these days. Many cars in this segment offer reasonably tranquil cabins, and the Sonic falls in step with this trend. Wind and road noise is minimal, and there isn't much ruckus raised by the tires. Overall, the cabin remains quiet enough to allow passengers to chat without shouting.
One of the things that's most pleasing about subcompacts like the Chevy Sonic is how straightforward and unpretentious they are when it comes to the layout and presentation of their controls. Within the Sonic, controls are placed in a manner that's immediately familiar; they're also labeled in a clear and easily legible way. The end result is a user experience that never once begs you to crack the owner's manual.
Little cars like the Sonic have to make clever use of space if they're to offer decent utility, and the Chevy rises to this challenge. Storage opportunities are surprisingly abundant, given the car's diminutive footprint. There are two glovebox storage areas, with the top one featuring a USB port and a rubber-lined shelf to grip your MP3 player. Door bins are relatively generous and the center console area features nooks designed to bear the random odds and ends that passengers tote on their travels.
Those traveling in the second row will find seating that's wide and spacious. The Sonic's 34.6 inches of rear legroom gives it one of the roomiest backseats in the segment; it offers more rear legroom than rivals like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Hyundai Accent.
This Chevy isn't such a class leader when it comes to cargo capacity, though. With 19 cubic feet of room offered behind the rear seats, the Sonic falls about midpack in this regard; it has more room than the Ford Fiesta, but less than the Fit and the Accent. Fold those rear seats and capacity swells to 30.7 cubic feet, a figure that places the Sonic ahead of the Fiesta, but way, way behind choices like the Fit and the Accent (57.3 and 47.5 cubic feet, respectively). Outward visibility is satisfactory from most angles.
Design/Fit and Finish
Maybe it was the cheap-yet-chic brand of sportiness evident in its sheet metal, or maybe it was its bold pumpkin-hued paint job; whatever the reason, the Sonic certainly turned heads during its stay with us. With its rising beltline and crisp fastback silhouette, it's certainly one of the more striking models in what has become a surprisingly handsome segment.
Within the cabin, materials quality is decent but not exceptional. Design, though, is quite eye-catching, thanks to an industrial motif that calls to mind modern downtown lofts.
Who should consider this vehicle
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is well-suited for drivers who want an affordable subcompact that offers good fuel economy without any compromises concerning horsepower, torque and handling. Its accommodating cabin — loaded with helpful nooks and crannies — makes it one of the most livable choices in its segment. Keep in mind, though, that if generous cargo capacity tops your list of priorities, you'd be better served by roomier choices like the Honda Fit and Hyundai Accent.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Is the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2012 Sonic featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process All of our reviews are written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
How do people like the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2012 Sonic 3.9 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2012 Sonic.
Vehicle LT 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6A)
Review I'm not sure what some people do with their cars. We have TWO 2012 Sonic LT Auto's, both with the 1.8L engine. One is a Sedan and the other is a Hatch. I like the sedan a bit better because is is actually longer, giving more cargo space in most cases. Plus, due to aerodynamics, the sedan gets better MPG, especially on the highway, where we routinely get 37 MPG out of that car. But, I also like the hatch, because it has the bigger wheels and fog lights. If it only got the same MPG... There have been a few recall issues, but not many. I do my own oil/filter changes and full synthetic is the way to go. The only odd thing on the sedan was the air intake hose between the air box and manifold cracked on the sedan and that tripped the engine light. It was a $35 part, so I just replaced it in the garage. UPDATE: GM extended the warranty on this part and reimbursed my repair cost. On the hatch, I took a pot-holed exit ramp too fast and broke a ball joint, so that was $150 with labor and alignment. Other than that, we have about 100K miles combined and ONE unexpected repair. BTW tie rods and ball joints on smaller cars are almost routine maintenance when driving on Michigan roads. Overall pretty good repair record, in my opinion. These are good cars for the money. The insurance is reasonable (we are over 50) they ride pretty well for being so small, especially compared to the imports. We live in Michigan and have full sets of snow tires for these cars, since the factory tires are useless in the snow. But, with the right tires, they are good in winter. I routinely drive though 6-8 inches of snow and isolated patches up to a foot and have never been stranded. The sedan was rear-ended early on, and the fix was done well at the dealership. We take care of our cars and these have been particularly trouble-free. But, a lot of younger people buy these cars and maybe they don't take care of them. Also, a lot of used Sonics are coming on the market now from rental fleets, so they might not have been cared for that well either. The flood of rental returns is also lowering the resale right now. All things considered, I'd buy another one tomorrow, probably a turbo LT sedan. UPDATE: I did buy a 2013 LT Turbo Sedan, slightly used a few months ago, so now I have THREE Sonics. They are pretty good cars, my only recent gripe being a few rattles have developed, but they are cheap and easy to fix. The dealer put a replacement set of plastic stabilizer bar links on the 2013 with only 5k miles and there was a TSB put out for a bad seal between the engine and transmission on the car with the turbo engine. That leak was fixed at no cost to me.
How can Edmunds help? Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color
Is the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic safe? The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic earned a 5-star overall safety rating from NHTSA and "GOOD" ratings from the IIHS in the following caregories: Side Impact Test, Roof Strength Test, Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint, Moderate Overlap Front Test Results, and a JD POWER overall quality rating of 3.0 out of 5. Among Edmunds' many tools and resources for finding your perfect car are detailed safety ratings and analysis from NHTSA, IIHS, and JD Power, including overall ratings, frontal barrier crash ratings, side impact tests and crash ratings, rollover test results, roof strength tests, rear crash protection and head restraint ratings, side barrier ratings, combined side barrier and pole ratings, and more.
What options are available on the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic?
Available Chevrolet Sonic 2012 Submodel Types: Sedan, Hatchback
Available Trims: LT, LS, LTZ, RS, Premier
Exterior Colors: Summit White, Silver Ice Metallic, Nightfall Gray Metallic, Red Hot, Mosaic Black Metallic, Kinetic Blue Metallic, Black Granite Metallic, Blue Topaz Metallic, Cajun Red Tintcoat, Cyber Gray Metallic, Arctic Blue Metallic, Ashen Gray Metallic, Crystal Red Tintcoat, Black, Blue Velvet Metallic, Victory Red, Inferno Orange Metallic, Mocha Bronze Metallic, Brimstone, Deep Magenta Metallic, Dragon Green Metallic, Ivy Metallic, Orange Burst Metallic, White Diamond Tricoat
Interior Colors: Jet Black/Dark Titanium cloth, Jet Black/ Dark Titanium premium cloth, Jet Black/Dark Titanium premium cloth, Jet Black/ Dark Titanium cloth, Jet Black premium cloth, Dark Pewter/ Dark Titanium premium cloth, Jet Black/ Dark Titanium leatherette, Jet Black leather/sueded microfiber, Jet Black/Dark Titanium leatherette, Jet Black leatherette/sueded microfiber, Jet Black/ Brick premium cloth, Dark Pewter/ Dark Titanium leatherette, Dark Pewter/Dark Titanium premium cloth, Jet Black/ Brick leatherette, Jet Black/Brick premium cloth
Popular Features: Alarm, Aux Audio Inputs, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Post-collision safety system, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Tire Pressure Warning, Trip Computer, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Bluetooth, USB Inputs, Mobile Internet, Remote Start, Back-up camera, Upgraded Engine, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Heated seats, Keyless Entry/Start, Power Driver Seat, Sunroof/Moonroof, Lane Departure Warning, Upgraded Stereo, Parking sensors